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December 21, 2011
Florida's stat sheet leaves no room for interpretation.
It's offense is explosive, averaging 86.5 points per game, good for third nationally. And all of that scoreboard abuse starts behind the semicircle as no team in the nation produces more baskets (11.5 per game) from three-point range.
If Florida State plans on escaping the Stephen C. O'Connell Center with a victory over the 11th ranked Gators on Thursday night (7 p.m., ET, ESPNU), it will have to rely on its own calling card - stellar defense. FSU coach Leonard Hamilton knows his team has its plate full.
"They can score the three from three or four positions," Hamilton said. "They're a great basketball team, they deserve their ranking and they present some unique and special challenges for us."
It's not just quality sharpshooting that has Florida scoring so much, its the breadth of able shooters. Florida has four players who have made at least 20 three-point baskets on the season, which doesn't include 6-foot-10 forward Erik Murphy, who has shot a team-best 50 percent (13-of-26) from behind the arc. All told, the Gators are shooting 39.8 percent from three-point range as a team, a strong number considering the bevy of attempts.
Junior Kenny Boynton leads the team in scoring (18.7) and three-point field goals made (41).
"They'll shoot if from anywhere," said FSU senior Jeff Peterson, who played against the Gators last season when he was with Arkansas. "Without hesitation."
"I think they're a complete basketball team, and they are a really good three point shooting team. You have to defend them all over the court," Hamilton said. "Why their inside game good is that they've got three-point shooters and what makes their three-point shooters so effective is that they've got a good inside game. I think that you've got to be sound in your defensive philosophy, that's what we need to do in order to win."
Florida State hopes impose its strong defense to slow UF down. FSU ranks third nationally in field goal defense (34.2 percent), 14th in three-point percentage defense (25.4 percent) and 30th nationally in scoring defense (57.8 ppg). And while the Seminoles have lost two straight against the Gators, they have always been able to keep the game low scoring. That tempo that usually favors FSU compared to a Gator bunch that likes to push the ball, shoot three-pointers and implement strong full-court pressure.
"It's unique because you're going to be able to see which one (FSU defense or UF offense) wins out," guard Michael Snaer "For us, we have great defense, but the biggest thing for us is can we bring our offensive game and are we clicking that day?
" I feel like we're going to get it done. I feel that it's a game that we can really, really win. Our defense are going to do it's part like it always does. They're a great offensive team - last year we kept them below 60 so I feel like this year there's no reason why we couldn't keep them just as low or somewhere around there. I feel like if we get above 70 points, we can win the game."
Florida State will have to make it happen without the services of Terrance Shannon, who is out for the year with a shoulder injury. Freshman Antwan Space, who has missed all of the regular season with a broken bone in his foot, could be available for Thursday's game but is expected to be limited. Hamilton did not say whether guard Ian Miller would make his season debut against UF.
The game also marks Florida State's final opportunity to land a marquee out-of-conference win. While the Seminoles have no eye-opening losses, it botched attempts to earn quality wins against Harvard, Michigan State and UConn last month. After Thursday, Florida State only has lowly Princeton and Auburn remaining on its non-league slate.
"It's a great game for us to play this year to kind of see where we are," Hamilton said.